“…after words…”

This is the story of a community theater, a local amateur artists’ workshop, and a day camp. I often ask my students to try to resolve the dispute that arose when several children at the day-camp hosted by the theater wandered into the (technically off-limits) lobby, where the workshop’s annual art exhibit had been hung for the pleasure of evening theater-goers. What a nice community-theater group, to want their facility to welcome and nurture all the arts! Alas, one of the artists had painted several nudes that, although they had excited no particular comment from said theatergoers, drew immediate interest and prolonged off-site commentary from the little boys (age 8). The commentary was so prolonged, and evidently so graphic (they must have considered themselves boys of the world…), that it drew parental attention and concern. And then—Parents confront theater board: “compromise” is worked out whereby the “questionable” paintings will be removed from the lobby during the day and re-hung in the evening. All happy…except, of course the artist, who storms in and replaces the nudes with “CENSORED” signs during the evening’s Intermission, thereby attracting the attention of the local theater critic and thereby the local newspaper…

Some students side with the parents, who don’t want their children prematurely “exposed to sex.” Some side with the board, poor hapless board, who want everyone to get along. Some side with the artist, who sees nothing shameful about the human body and considers the “compromise” to actually be censorship. A few suggest the artist remove ALL her paintings, to say that all the work is art and if people are uncomfortable with some of it they don’t deserve to see any of it. Several others suggest that the little boys have already been “exposed to sex” if they have a “graphic vocabulary” for it.

I love this topic, really, and students actually get quite worked up about the situation, which I based on a real event that had occurred at a theater in the area.

But sincerity and passion do not always good sentences make, and this topic has produced its share of Horrors, particularly because the story itself is hard to summarize efficiently.

Today’s Horror is lovely in the context of the story:

“The paintings would be removed during day camp hours and placed back on display after words.”

Of course I knew what my student meant: “afterwards.” Easy fix. Just two considerations got the sentence into my book: first, I wonder if she is unaware of the word “afterwards” and always writes it “after words,” and if so, what kind of mental picture she carries around for that term. And second—the lovely part—in this case “after words” is certainly appropriate. The little boys’ words started the whole brouhaha, and that meeting between their parents and the board must have been quite a verbal cha-cha-cha. The most exciting words of all were posted after the paintings were put back, although this sentence doesn’t include that (“and then removed again after more words”?).

Think about using this error in other contexts: The two drunks disagreed about the Yankees, and came to blows after words. The blind date started with awkward conversation, but the couple went to bed together soon after words. My mother got very angry with me, and sent me to my room after words.

Like the adolescent game of adding “under the covers” to the ends of otherwise-ordinary sentences, changing “afterwards” to “after words” every time you see it might add an entertaining dimension to your reading experience. Try for two days and then report back, after words.

About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““…after words…”

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